The debate for Malaysia to recognise the United Examination Certificate (UEC) has gone on for some time – probably for the past four years or more. Those proposing that the nation recognise this certificate are mostly from the Malaysian ethnic Chinese communities, from the education collective to non-Malay majority political parties, particularly the MCA and DAP.
Those against, are mostly the Malaysian ethnic Malays – the most recent reason given by the prime minister is that UEC will only be recognised when socioeconomics allow it. Or directly from the prime minister, “when all sensitivities are considered”.
This phrase seems rather…cryptic, does it not?
Proponents of the UEC says that it is widely accepted in foreign universities, on the same level as the Malaysian government’s STPM or translated to the Malaysian High Education Examination.
At the same time, it is also considered on par with the acceptance of the British A Levels or American SATs worldwide, which is recognised by the Malaysian education system for university degrees, both public and private.
Thus, what is the approval of yet another internationally recognised certificate when it comes to university admittance? It isn’t.
So, what is the major concern?
In a utopian society without barriers, it wouldn’t – but let us take the scenario that Malaysia is not utopian and rather racist. After all, we had a Chindian young man being rejected from renting apartments in Penang for being “mixed race” rather than pure Chinese.
Taking that mentality into a scenario, the objection against the UEC is not against allowing it to be accepted for entrances into universities or even to be given scholarships to go overseas.
Instead, it is the concern that this will impact the job market.
Let us be rather frank – there is a rather racist job market in Malaysia, and the scenario is that allowing the UEC will impact hiring for the Malay community with only SPM and STPM level education.
And this is where the Malays against it see the highest impact – that employers will then overlook Malaysian certificate bearers and prioritise the UEC for hiring employees.
With it being an issue to even get an executive level job these days, there is a need for the government to consider whether there is equality in hiring, or is merit being made an excuse.
A similar scenario happened when it came to the new Pakatan Harapan cabinet, in which 30 percent were supposed to be women and this failed to be achieved.
While some women (read: Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz) believed that merit should be looked at instead of gender, I disagree. After all, there are enough women in politics with the same merit to become minister, unlike the age when said woman was a minister.
Similarly, a scenario allowing the UEC to be accepted for employment along with the SPTM, will impact the private sector most of all because if there is a racial bias, it will put the Malay community majority from public schools at an even further disadvantage.
Is it a believable, relevant and even a serious concern?
I think that is up to everyone to decide.
For myself, like I said, it is two scenarios based on perception.
If the perception is that the job market is racially biased, and the mentality of people is still stuck in tribalism on all sides, then having it recognised and official through an exam certificate seems to be a step backwards, not forwards.
Unless, the UEC is then taken by Malays at large and in high numbers, then perhaps we can remove this fear of it being a Chinese bias issue. Until then, it will be hard to convince anyone fighting for so-called Malay rights that this isn’t just another way to push the Malay community out of the running for a job using an exam cert.
The second utopian scenario is that nobody bothers and the job market puts the STPM, UEC and A Levels at the same level without bias. That the best candidate goes through a number of interviews to show that they are the best candidate for jobs, and that employers are not racially biased, gender biased, and threat all including foreign workers at the same level as locals.
It would be the two schizophrenic mindsets well implanted in all Malaysians, even if they won’t admit it.